By Andy Ostmeyer
Globe Metro Editor
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
A 153-year-old Bible that may have belonged to a soldier killed during the American Civil War goes up for auction Sunday.
Gail Triplett, owner of Carl Junction Auction Service and Circle T Collectibles, said today that he came across the Bible serendipitously, when it was brought in amid an “armload” of stuff to his business at 118 S. Main St. Triplett specializes in military collectibles, ranging from uniforms and patches to headgear, helmets and weapons from most of the wars in American history.
“Some people came in ... just brought a bunch of stuff they wanted to sell,” he explained today, while getting ready for the auction.
A day or so later, he began filtering through the merchandise.
“I really didn’t realize what it was until I got to looking through it. I was shocked when I found out what it was. I was just blown away.”
The Bible is dated 1860 and the leather cover is still intact.
It’s what is written inside the Bible, however, that tells a more contemporary story. Though fading, some of the writing is still legible.
“Pvt. Belden, Co. D, 5th Infantry, Killed in Action at Seven Pines ... May 31, 1862.”
“S. Pearce bitterly mourns his loss.”
A search through the online database of Civil War soldiers and sailors maintained by the National Park Service indicates that a Phineas D. Belden fought with Company D of the Fifth Michigan at the Battle of Seven Pines.
His unit was organized in Detroit in the early days of the war and arrived in Washington, D.C., in September 1861. It was moved to the Virginia Peninsula the following spring, and fought in a number of battles that were part of the larger Peninsula Campaign, which included the Battle of Seven Pines, on May 31-June 1, 1862.
The same Civil War database indicates that a Samuel Pearce was a member of Co. D, Fifth Michigan, and was later promoted to the rank of lieutenant, although it is unclear if he survived the war.
The Fifth Michigan continued fighting throughout the war, and would later see action at many major battles, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and was present for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in 1865.
The Fifth Michigan lost 16 officers and 247 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded during the Civil War and three officers and 183 enlisted men to disease.
Among those casualties was Belden, who was 20 years old when he was killed. He is buried in the Seven Pines National Cemetery in Richmond, Va.
Triplett said many soldiers carried pocket-size Bibles during the war and he speculates that this one may have been sent back Belden’s family, but he does not know how it ended up in the armload of material he recently acquired.
“A book of that type, intact, still with the covers, it’s worth several hundred dollars at least,” he said. “Those kinds of things don’t come up very often.”
On May 31, 1862, Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston tried to overwhelm two Union Corps who were isolated south of the Chickahominy River in Virginia. The Union was able to hold its position that first day. The Confederates renewed their assault the second day, but there was little change. Both sides claimed victory and today historians consider the battle inconclusive. There were nearly 5,800 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties of that battle.